, Salem, MA

January 27, 2014

A look at what others are saying

The Salem News

---- — The following are excerpts from newspapers across New England:

If Big Brother had outsourced some of his work, the lives of the people in the novel “1984” would have been little different.

It’s the same story in the United States 30 years later. Making cosmetic changes to the functioning of the surveillance state will do no one any good.

President Barack Obama spoke for nearly three-quarters of an hour on changes he’d like to see in the ways that the federal government conducts its spying programs. But in the end, what all the words added up to was just more of the same.

A record of every telephone call made to, from or within the United States — the phone that made the call, the number dialed, the duration — will still be retained in a searchable database. But rather than being in the hands of the National Security Agency, it will be moved into the possession of some as-yet-to-be-named third party.

Additionally, the president said the United States would not be in the business of spying on our allies, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

And he announced some study and review, some consultation with Congress.

Feeling a great sense of relief, of liberty truly restored?

The president’s response was awfully thin gruel, an effort to tamp down the worries of those who have been rightly feeling that our government, rather than providing protection, has become a real threat to our fundamental liberties.

As we pointed out, the president had been as silent as a spy on the surveillance state — until former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the cover off the operation back in June of last year.

It’s good that Obama is now finally talking, but the changes he’s speaking of have got to add up to more than just rearranging the pieces of the same secretive puzzle.

— The Springfield Republican

Cigarette smoking has declined among adults, from 42 percent in 1965 to 18 percent in 2012, according to the Washington Post.

That’s the good news.

Now, here’s the bad news. Smokers today have a much higher risk of developing lung cancers than did smokers in the 1960s, probably because of changes in the design and composition of cigarettes over time, according to a report released last week by acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak. And that’s not all.

Experts now believe smoking is a cause of liver cancer and colorectal cancer, the fourth-most-diagnosed form of the disease in the United States, as well as Type 2 diabetes mellitus, age-related macular degeneration, erectile dysfunction and rheumatoid arthritis. It can impair the immune system, worsen asthma and cause cleft lips and palates in fetuses. And, even if you are not a smoker, you could be at risk: Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause strokes.

A collection of public health and antitobacco groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, said the Post, “collectively called for a ‘new national commitment’ to eliminating tobacco-related deaths. Among their suggestions: tobacco tax increases, broader laws for smoke-free workplaces, strict tobacco oversight from the FDA, and aggressive advertising campaigns to help smokers quit and keep nonsmokers from lighting up.

History tells us that these efforts work. Since 1964 when medical experts first spoke out about the dangers of smoking, antismoking measures have spared an estimated 8 million lives in this country and contributed to longer life expectancies, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

And, yet, each day, thousands of teenagers light up their first cigarette.

Our best chance of saving their lives is to reach them before they get addicted — to get the message out that smoking is neither “cool” nor harmless — and that it’s expensive.

After all, it’s been 50 years since the Surgeon General Luther Terry first spoke out about the dangers of smoking.

It’s past time for us to hear his message.

— The New Britain, Conn., Herald